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Rise Above: Empowering Youth

by Summaiya Noor AliKarachi, Pakistan

RISE ABOVE bridges youth across socioeconomic & sectarian divides through music, arts, sports & drama via a new path to drive social change,promote social cohesion & catalyse peace

Project Summary

Our Story

We are a group of three, Amal Zehra, Aysha Imtiaz, and Summaiya Noor Ali, all from Pakistan. Fate brought us together to work on a project that holds a special place in our hearts. We want every child to enjoy equal rights, & opportunity. 

Our vision is great, we need to prove that it is as practical as it is substantial. 

Poverty exists worldwide. There are 7 billion people in the world, according to the World Bank there are 1.29 billion in absolute poverty. It was an eye opener for me when I researched about these statistics, and no doubt is the same for you. How is it possible that 7 billion people have not been able to help the 1.29 billion who are living in abject poverty? What has been stopping us?

We aim to eradicate the gap that exists within a city, between the youth which forms over 60% of the population. Witnessing this is very heart-breaking. Our major purpose is to break down barriers that divide communities and instill values that build friendships and drive positive social change.

We, as individuals, have tried our best to assist our community to our full capacity, by volunteering in various organizations, by organizing events that develop capacities to empower the youth. Those events have gotten us the confidence to go a step further. We went to Naya Jeevan, where Asher Hasan became our mentor. Asher is a TED fellow, and has won numerous accolades and is known in the International community. 

What’s is the problem?

There is a huge difference between the socioeconomic status and education/literacy levels of students going to NGO schools in low-income communities and those attending elite, private schools in Pakistan.  Over the passage time, there is massive attrition from Bunkabab kids (Kids coming from a poor background) to drop out of school and start working to support their families, or worse, resort to begging/prostitution. In major urban centers like Karachi and Lahore, children as young as 5 years old are seen at traffic signals washing car windshields.. It is common knowledge that these ‘street kids’ are subjected to violence, neglect, exploitation, victimization and abuse in society.

The mission of the “RISE ABOVE” program is to instill hope, respect, empathy, a sense of dignity, integrity and entrepreneurial opportunity among both low-income NGO children and their elite counterparts in Pakistani society. The main idea is to promote cooperation and social cohesion between these two incredibly similar (in phenotype) but vastly different (in opportunity and mindset) sets of students who share a common heritage.  

What new do we offer, you ask?

We propose to break the wall of invisibility between Burgers (affluent kids) and Bunkabab (kids coming from a poor family background). These children are at such an age where they are still hopeful, can imagine change, and society has not yet made them immune to misery. Their natural instinct to become drivers of change is very active. They have yet to be brainwashed by political propaganda or a rapacious corporate culture. They believe in solving issues proactively, creating social impact and being meaningful contributors to society.

RISE ABOVE aims to strengthen the yourh by providing for them 10 value workshops conducted through experiential learning. After this, the capstone project for the participants is Design for a Change project, which was started  in India. In this project, participants will get to explore their entrepreneurial spirit and collectively solve civic/social issues that impact society (e.g. environmental pollution, garbage recycling, etc) under the mentorship of their school teachers and professional workshop trainers/facilitators.


Why value workshops?

If we chose to provide an education like Math, English and Science, the Burgers would have had an upper hand on the Bunkabab kids. Hence, we had to find something that was useful to both sets of students, and where none would feel out of place. Where both can see that they once were Burgers and Bunkababs, but they have similarities. Their meat is the same, even if their appearance might be different. 


What will this change and where?

This project and model has HUGE potential to transform Pakistan forever. It has the potential to sustainably CHANGE MINDSETS and EMPOWER YOUTH. Youth under 25 form approximately 2/3rds of the Pakistani population, which as of 2013 is close to 190 million people. The need for these youth to work collaboratively and not succumb to violence and extremism has never been greater.

Given that Pakistan has a post-colonial, feudal society the idea of transcending socioeconomic ‘class’ was thought to be unachievable. With the help of the ‘RISE ABOVE’ program, we can develop a more socially cohesive, empathic society that can be replicated by many other emerging countries. The program was piloted back in 2007, with results exceeding our expectations. The next step is to launch the program formally in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and then expand to other major cities.

How can you help?

To become part of this potentially massive campaign, all you have to do is sponsor/donate/pledge an amount that you can give for this cause. Each dollar counts and will go towards creating a healthcare pool for underprivelaged kids.